Think great wines have to be expensive? Think again!
The list of outstanding Southern Oregon wines is long, with just about something for everyone's holiday table. Unfortunately, there is a down-side for many hosts. The top wines sell for at least $20 a bottle, some for $30, $40 or more.
But just because you may be lacking a fortune to spend on wine doesn't necessarily mean you have to sacrifice quality. Poke around and you may be surprised at how many good Southern Oregon wines you can find that retail for less than $10. Wines that no one would be ashamed to serve to even a discriminating guest.
Budget-conscious Southern Oregon wines fall into two groups. First, there are those with an original retail price that's below $10. In the second group are wines that originally sold for a higher price but have since been marked down to the range you seek.
The overall local leader in the first group is Bridgeview of Cave Junction. Yes, it makes wines that sell for $20 or more but it also has a good under-$10 lineup. Two of its under-$10 wines have won best of show honors at the Oregon State Fair in recent years. You'll find Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet-Merlot blend, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Early Muscat and Müller Thurgau at prices ranging from $7.95 to $9.95. Many of those wines can be found for even less money at discount supermarkets and some wine shops.
A company affiliated with Eden Valley Orchards of Medford, also the home of EdenVale Winery, offers Merlot and Chardonnay for as low at $7. Look for a label bearing a large "R" and the name RVW Company.
Valley View of Ruch has its 2004 Rogue Rosé priced at exactly $10. Foris of Cave Junction also has a $10 entry, 2005 Dry Rose Grenache, plus one for $9, 2005 Early Muscat.
Valley View and Foris also make wines that fit into the second group, those originally priced above $10 but frequently on sale below. Check out the shelves of discount markets and look for Valley View Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and Foris Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Flyover Red. Another in this category is Troon's Jeanie in the Bottle, a blush wine. It's normally $12 but sometimes on the supermarket shelf for less. And Bridgeview's least expensive Pinot Noir, while officially over $10, can occasionally be found on sale for less.
One other tip: watch the newspaper ads placed by stores that sell wine. Sometimes you'll spot a bargain. Table Rock Merlot, which originally retailed for close to $20, was recently on sale for $7.99 and EdenVale's $14 white blend called Midsummer's Eve marked down to $6.99.
So, there are some under-$10 wines to consider. Now, which ones should you serve with Christmas dinner?
If you are staying with the traditional turkey, try Gewürztraminer, suggests Tim Woodhead, marketing director with Bridgeview. He feels that the wine's "acidity and sweetness are a nice contrast with the dryness of turkey."
With ham, he'd pour Riesling, since its "acidity and honey-spice/apple flavors tend to match well with that entrée."
Cabernet-Merlot blend would be his choice with beef because "smooth tannins of blended red wines are a complement to the mouthfeel associated with prime rib."
While Chardonnay would be his choice to accompany turkey, Valley View President Mark Wisnovsky says both his Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon would also work. He suggests putting a bottle of each on the table and let people choose. If your guests prefer something a little sweeter, go with the Rogue Rosé.
So, just because you're on a budget doesn't mean that you can't treat your guests to some great wine with their holiday dinner. Shop around, read the paper for wine sales, and buy early if necessary. Cheers!